Tony Fry, Managing Director of Robertson Civil Engineering believes practical site experience is invaluable when it comes to sparking an interest in construction and establishing your career.
"When I was 15, a work placement for Shetland Islands Council roads department fired my interest in civil engineering. Straight away, I knew it was what I wanted to do, and went on to study at Heriot-Watt University. That initial week on site was what really made the difference in pursuing my career."
Robertson Civil Engineering employs Matthew Don, who is training to be a groundworker. He is based at the i3 Strategic Investment Campus in Irvine Bay, where we are developing the site and constructing a new building at the gateway to the campus.
“The time that apprentices spend on site is invaluable for things like drainage, concrete works and earthworks,” says Tony. “Of course, the academic side is very important but in my opinion you get much more rounded learning if it is supplemented with practical experience.”
Matthew learns to operate some of the large plant such as dumpers and rollers, as well as to use tools and smaller plant to assist in the construction effort.
He is mentored by Project Manager, Dave, and his site-based experience is supplemented by attending the CITB centre at Hillington in Glasgow.
Lynsey Buchanan started working with Robertson Civil Engineering as a site administrator at Cuningar Woodland park. She was required to help with several other projects, including Pennywell affordable housing in Edinburgh, Ostlers Way Care Home in Kirkcaldy and Fife Energy Park.
While in an administration role she took a keen interest in keeping accurate records of our resources, taking the initiative to help to ensure that budgets were being met.
Her mentor is Stephen Todd, Senior Quantity Surveyor, who explained how valuable this was:
“Lynsey quickly became an integral part of the Robertson Civil Engineering team. Her diligence in keeping paperwork up to date – including details of the labour, plant and materials we were using – made the quantity surveyors’ life a lot easier, as we were starting with a very accurate account of the costs spent on site.”
In 2015, she expressed an interest in becoming a Quantity Surveyor herself and Robertson fostered this enthusiasm by putting her through a BTEC National Certificate in Construction at City of Glasgow College.
She has now gone on to specialise in Quantity Surveying, studying an HNC at South Lanarkshire College and is approaching the end of her first year.
Stephen elaborated on how site-based experience complements this qualification: “Having a good understanding of measurement is important; and I have encouraged Lynsey to pay close attention to materials on site, and compare these to the amounts in the tender. For example, inspecting 100m of foundations that have been installed, and analysing the cost, ensures we remain on programme, are productive, aren’t overspending and that we are using the correct labour.”
Lynsey will be based at Irvine Bay Gateway along with Matthew. In addition to this, she is working on a project at Annickbank where Robertson Civil Engineering is delivering the foundations, slabs and scaffold platforms before sister business Robertson Central undertakes construction of two large office buildings for North Ayrshire Council.
Tony Fry sums up by adding that there are other ways for students to develop their skills and career: “I also really like Robertson’s internship programme, and our industrial work placements, because they offer the students the chance to supplement their learning with practical site experience. In recent years, we have recruited several graduates following the successful completion of an internship programme.”